John: ‘We need our girls to be faster, not bigger to be successful’

During his stint with the men's team, John was credited with raising the players' strength and fitness and the Australian is planning to continue doing the same. A hard taskmaster with little patience for indiscipline, John has been constantly travelling across the country to various national championships.

David John first came to India in 2011 as scientific advisor for the Indian men’s hockey team and changed both the perception and understanding of fitness of the players.   -  K. Murali Kumar

David John first came to India in 2011 as scientific advisor for the Indian men’s hockey team and changed both the perception and understanding of fitness of the players.

Six years later he is back, but this time as the High Performance Director for Indian hockey, trying to raise the level of the game across all age groups and genders. His first few months in his new role saw him concentrate completely on the women’s team, knowing well that there was a lot more work to be done with them.

“As the HPD I wanted to learn more about the women since I did not spend any time with them when I was here in 2011-12. So most of my time so far has been with the women because they were preparing for the Hockey World League Round 2 in Vancouver. I have a good idea now of what we have. I have also followed the players at the ongoing Nationals trying to increase the depth of the available pool, find some more talent here and develop the base.

“The target is to move up from the present 12th rank to be in the top-8 at the earliest,” John said from Rohtak on the sidelines of the A Division National Championships. With several national team players participating in the tournament for their respective domestic teams, performance at the Nationals would also be one of the criteria to select the team for the upcoming New Zealand tour.

During his stint with the men's team, John was credited with raising the players' strength and fitness and the Australian is planning to continue doing the same. A hard taskmaster with little patience for indiscipline, John has been constantly travelling across the country to various national championships.

Refuting the fact that the women need to bulk up to match the top teams in the world, John said, “I want the Indian women to be among the top 4-5 in world in terms of fitness. But it is a myth that you need to be muscular to be successful. If you see some of the top teams like Holland or Argentina, they are not big or bulky. Since the new four-quarter system has come in, the game has got a lot faster and it is more important to have tall, lean, fast girls in the side than the bulky ones. It suits the Indian body structure better and that's what we have to train the girls for,” he explained.

His target for the coming year is to develop a strong junior and sub-junior group of players among both men and women since they, he insisted, would form the core group of the senior team over the next 4-8 years. “I have already seen the junior boys and girls in Bhopal. The skills are clearly there but we need to work on their physical development over the next 12 months,” he said.